The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Iain Shed­den

Hearts That Strain Jake Bugg EMI Jake Bugg said around the time of last year’s al­bum, the vi­brant, eclec­tic On My One, that he wants ev­ery al­bum he makes to be dif­fer­ent. This fourth of­fer­ing from the 23year-old Not­ting­ham singer and song­writer cer­tainly lives up to that no­tion, although it’s not al­ways there to be cel­e­brated. Hearts That Strain, a col­lec­tion of love songs in case that wasn’t ob­vi­ous, is a de­par­ture from the bom­bast ( Gimme the Love, Put Out the Fire) and sweep­ing pop melo­drama ( Love, Hope and Mis­ery, The Love We’re Hop­ing For) of his pre­vi­ous out­ing, not to men­tion be­ing light years away from the punk at­ti­tude ( Light­ning Bolt, Trou­ble Town) of his blus­ter­ing, bluesy self-ti­tled de­but in 2012.

There’s no trace of his Hen­drix fix­a­tion on Hearts That Strain or in­deed any of Bugg’s admirable gui­tar histri­on­ics. In their place comes, in part, a nod to Nash­ville and its coun­try cre­den­tials, as well as in­flu­ences from the more mid­dle-of-the-road com­part­ment of great Amer­i­can 1960s pop. The open­ing How Soon the Dawn is a good ex­am­ple of that. One of three songs cowrit­ten by and fea­tur­ing the Black Keys’ singer and gui­tarist Dan Auer­bach, it’s the kind of ro­man­tic pop tune typ­i­cal of Burt Bacharach’s golden age to which one might slip out to the pool for a Cam­pari and soda. The ro­man­tic vein con­tin­ues on the coun­try­ish, un­event­ful stroll South­ern Rain. The next song, also fea­tur­ing Auer­bach, is more re­ward­ing, a vaguely psy­che­delic tune that dis­plays Bugg’s angsty voice and boasts a lyric — un­like sev­eral oth­ers here — that doesn’t de­scend into cliche (“If you should hear my name / be a friend and please re­frain / from say­ing we were friends / let them tell their lies / in the event of my demise”. While On My One was largely a one-man band and pro­duc­tion, Bugg took this batch of songs to Nash­ville and recorded with Auer­bach and some sea­soned ses­sion dudes who have names such as Elvis Pres­ley and Dusty Spring­field on their CVs. Pro­ducer David Fer­gu­son and side­kick Matt Sweeney, who worked on Bugg’s Rick Ru­bin-pro­duced sec­ond al­bum, Shangri-la, give the 11 songs a gloss for which they seem tailor-made. There are lovely mo­ments, how­ever, where the qual­ity of the song rises above the sheen. This Time is an up­lift­ing coun­try stroll un­der­pinned by pedal steel, while Wait­ing, fea­tur­ing the sul­try vo­cals of Mi­ley Cyrus’s lit­tle sis­ter Noah, is a se­duc­tive soul bal­lad. Best of all is the sprightly coun­try blues Burn Alone, the third co-write with Auer­bach and Fer­gu­son.

In con­trast The Man on Stage, hinged by piano and strings, over­plays the sen­ti­men­tal card, as does Big­ger Lover and the clos­ing, plod­ding epic Ev­ery Colour in the World. It’s as if in or­der to move on and per­haps ma­ture as a 23-year-old Bugg has opted to smooth down the rough edges that thus far have been his trade­mark. Qual­ity songs can sur­vive that, but there aren’t enough of them here to make this Bugg’s best work.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.